Argentina vs Switzerland: Lionel Messi and Argentina looking to finally flex their muscles
Alejandro Sabella hopes knockout stages will focus squad
Tuesday 01 July 2014
On the eve of Argentina’s first knock-out game, manager Alejandro Sabella was asked about the primary issue hanging over Brazil’s public house party. Have his team thought much about the idea of winning the World Cup in the home of their most historic rivals, especially given all it would entail?
Sabella refused to offer any comment that would stoke further emotion, but did raise something else. “First of all, winning the World Cup is a huge motivation. We haven’t won it since 1986.”
To do that, Argentina are also going to have to pass a few more elementary challenges. Remarkably for a country with such a World Cup history, they have not reached the semi-finals in 24 years. That is because, in that time, they have barely beaten anybody else after the group stages.
One stat stands out. Since 1990, Mexico are the only country that Argentina have actually defeated in normal time of a knock-out, having met them in 2006 and 2010.
Beyond that, they famously beat England on penalties in 1998, but have otherwise lost to Romania, the Netherlands and - on two occasions - Germany.
As such, it is not just Switzerland that Argentina must overcome in Sao Paulo today, but a curious mental complex about the latter stages of this competition.
The difference this time is that Sabella feels it is precisely the knock-out that will focus minds.
“This is another stage and there is no margin for error. In the group stage, there is always the possibility to recover. Not now. We know we have to be very concentrated. Every error now is more costly, also because of the level of the opposition.
“You have to be strong emotionally and psychologically. I think there’s a philosopher who once said that one gram of brain cell is more important than any muscle in the body.”
The expectation is Argentina will finally flex their muscles tomorrow.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli comment: Time running out for 'lost boy' to shine at Liverpool, or anywhere
Cristiano Ronaldo applauded by Liverpool fans after master-class for Real Madrid, despite Manchester United ties
Angel Di Maria injury latest: Argentina international set to play in Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
Erik Lamela rabona steals the show in five-star Spurs Europa League romp
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo